Fulham’s under 23s moved another step closer to promotion from the Premier League 2 Division 2 after completing a rather routine victory over Sunderland at Motspur Park this afternoon.

The league leaders were frustrated for most of a first half they had dominated before a couple of goals in the space of two minutes put the game beyond the dogged Black Cats. Scottish striker Kieron Bowie broke the deadlock from close range after Sonny Hilton’s snapshot was saved and Irish under 21 international Ollie O’Neill then punished a horrible error from Sunderland goalkeeper Jacob Carney to double Fulham’s lead.

Steve Wigley named his strongest possible side with on-loan Connor McAvoy returning to partner Idris Odutayo in central defence as Wealdstone do not have a game this weekend. The hosts were quickly into their stride with Carney having to fist away a firm shot from Jay Stansfield. McAvoy, wearing the captain’s armband on his return, drove over the top from twenty yards before a flowing move down the right flank – featuring Luciano D’Auria-Henry and Stansfield – culminated with Bowie shooting against the post.

The chances kept coming for Fulham, but they couldn’t find the breakthrough. Stansfield, finding lots of pockets of space from his new number ten role, fired wide before Bowie had an effort cleared off the line after a melee in the penalty area. Sunderland clung on bravely but their resistance were broken in the dying embers of the first half. With three minutes remaining, Stansfield teed up Hilton and after the playmaker’s drive was pushed out by Carney, Bowie rolled home the rebound.

The second goal was far from fortuitous. Carney looked to have Hilton’s through pass covered but let it slip and O’Neill was able to slide a simple finish into the unguarded net. The second period lacked the intensity of what had proceeded it with Bowie shooting wide after brilliant play from D’Auria-Henry and Stansfield shooting well over shortly afterwards.

The game’s rhythm was disrupted by a long stoppage for treatment to Tyrese Francois, whose excellent game in the heart of the Fulham midfield was curtailed by another injury setback. The young Whites came close to a third with twenty minutes remaining when D’Auria-Henry’s inviting cross was headed fractionally wide by O’Neill but Fulham now have a surely unassailable seventeen point advantage at the top of the table.

FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): L. Ashby-Hammond; D’Auria-Henry, Larkeche, McAvoy, Odutayo; Francois (Page 65), Pajaziti; Hilton, O’Neill, Stansfield; Bowie. Subs (not used): Schwarzer, Bowat, C. Robinson, Harris.

BOOKED: Pajaziti.

GOALS: Bowie (42), O’Neill (44).

SUNDERLAND UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): Carney; Jessup (Emenike 73), Newall (Spellman 85), Johnson, Fieldson; Sohna, S. Thomas; Kachosa, Dyce (Gyimah 85), Kelly; Mbunga-Kimpioka. Subs (not used): McIntyre.

BOOKED: Jessup.